Tuesday, February 20, 2018
I first met her at a party. The host, a good friend of mine and sometimes drinking buddy, led me toward her. He told me her name was Justine and I reached out to shake her hand. I remembered that her faint paint splattered hands were soft. She wore a white shirt with jeans and her eyes took in everything at once. I remembered that moment as, several weeks later, we lay in her bed while it rained outside of her apartment. I still couldn't believe I . . . I wasn't a lesbian. Neither was she, she told me when she caressed my cheek while flute music from Japan played in the background. Her eyes stared right into my soul and I couldn't look away. She said she wanted to kiss me. I let her. She claimed later that she fell in love in with me when I met her at the party. I touched her face then her lips. She told me where she came from and I knew she was serious. She had to have been from there - how else could she explain her eyes that changed colour every few seconds? She said she waited for the right moment to meet me. I asked her if she was my Muse. She rolled me on my back. The rain continued to fall.
Monday, February 19, 2018
I love listening to musical groups that have many labels yet are always shifting and evolving. Tuatha Dea, the tribal/pagan/Celtic/rock/Steampunk group from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is one of those groups. A friend of mine recommended the band to me several years ago, and the Viking in my life gave me all of their CDs (he's a BIG fan). When I learned that Tuatha Dea had a concert set in Memphis, I knew I had to go. Seeing them live was a performance I will never forget - electric, sensual, eclectic, fey, everything! The concert that I attended was at Hard Rock Cafe - I was told that in order to get the full effect of the band, it's better to see them in an outdoor event. I do remember losing a bit of my hearing for several hours after the concert - I regret nothing! While on my latest jaunt to My Second Home, I decided to listen to their newest CD, Kilts and Corsets.
From the first title track to the bittersweet end track Open Letter to You, this CD delivers and packs a punch that is solid all the way through. Every song is flawless and rich with their sound and there wasn't a song that I disliked. Several of my favourites, however, were Kilts and Corsets, Morgan le Fay, and Appalachia Burning (written about the 2016 fire in Gatlinburg). These three songs stood out to me with the flow of the music, the blending of the singing voices, and the lyrics. If you have never seen them in concert, I highly recommend doing so. If you've never heard of them until today, you need to listen to their music. Their music will make you want to dance even if you claim you "can't dance". I know I'm a late bloomer to Tuatha Dea but I'm so glad their music is a part of my life now. If you want to start collecting their CDs, start with Kilts and Corsets. You will not be disappointed.
Thursday, February 15, 2018
Earlier this year, I wrote a review for the novel The Floating World by author C. Morgan Babst. The pre, during, and post Katrina was a moving novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. The novel moved me so much that I had to create a tea blend. Actually, I take that back - the blend created itself while I read the book. When I expressed my idea for a tea blend to Babst, she was very happy at the news. So, may I present to you, the NEW tea blend of Viridian Tea Company - Cora's Dreaming!
The tea was inspired by the character, Cora Boisdore - a young woman who remains behind while her family evacuates before Katrina arrives on land. What she witnesses during that time will change her life forever. The blend is a delicious mixture of sencha green tea, jasmine, rose hips, and dried lemon peel. The first batch smells heavenly and I can't wait to try it! If you do purchase a bag of this tea blend, I highly recommend purchasing a copy of the book as well.
The tea blend will be for sale at my booth at the Cooper Young Farmers Market, my Etsy store, and other places soon to come. You can purchase a copy of The Floating World on Amazon or at your local bookstore. If the bookstore doesn't have copies of the book, please order one through them. It's worth the read.
Much thanks to C. Morgan Babst for being so open to having a tea blend!
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
(Phuong Long - Memphis Tennessee - 2018)
I regretted ordering the chicken and lemongrass, as the spices were too much for my delicate palate.
"Too spicy?" my friend asked while trying not to laugh at my now watery eyes. I scooped some rice in my mouth, cooling it somewhat, then nodded that I was fine. My mouth was of no concern tonight. Greta needed me, spices or no. She nodded then resumed slurping noodles while continuing her story. "I didn't plan it," she said as she laid her chopsticks to the side then took a sip of her tea. "It just happened."
"That's usually how it works," I said after taking another bite of my spring roll. "Love does shit like that. So, are you happy?"
Greta grinned then resumed eating. "As happy as one can be. I mean, damn, that sounded bad. Look, I still can't believe that someone would be interested in me. Me!" I sighed inwardly: Greta, the PhD in Physics, violinist, lover of meditation, traveler, tea enthusiast. And SHE thought she was not a catch? I watched her eat - long shiny black hair pulled back into a thick ponytail, deep brown eyes, and lips that stayed covered in her trademark deep purple lipstick. Flawless pale skin enhanced by her beauty. She knew no other colour than black in her wardrobe, still clinging to her Goth ways while nervous men/colleagues couldn't stop staring at her.
"Is he a Man of Many Ways like you?"
"Actually," she said as she began to use her spoon for the broth in her pho, "he's not. Complete opposite. Yet every time we're together, we can't stop talking about everything."
I arched an eyebrow. "Talking? Is that what you crazy kids call it these days?"
She laughed, showing off her still perfect lipstick. "Get your mind out of the gutter, young lady. Yes, we do other things but we really do talk a lot. Honest!" I grinned then finished off my spring roll. She smiled at me, only to suddenly frown as her eyes went somewhere else. I looked at her strangely then turned to see a rather handsome man walk into the restaurant with a short blonde woman. The woman looked up at him then planted a kiss on his cheek. He kissed her nose and embraced her, only to stop when his eyes saw Greta. I returned my gaze to my friend, who was now staring into her half eaten bowl of pho. A single tear fell down her cheek and landed in the soup. I watched as my friend's so called love of her life quickly walk by us with the blonde woman as they chose a table in the far back. I felt a lump in my throat. I wanted to reach out to my friend yet held back. Greta remained quiet as she stared at the shrimp that floated around in the pho.
"The man of many ways apparently chose another way," she whispered as I began to hum with the ongoing elevator music, feeling more than at a loss.
Sunday, February 11, 2018
I first met author Jeffrey F. Barken through social media of a Twitter persuasion. I later learned that one of his characters from his novel, All the Lonely Boys in New York, also followed me on Twitter. I thought that was cute. However, when I began and finished Barken's book in one day, I honestly hoped that I would never "meet" the character. This book grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let go, not even when I finished it. I knew what was going to happen after the words ended and I was terrified yet somewhat relieved for the character. About time he got off his butt and actually DID something, I thought.
Meet Myles Fletcher, a young man who has recently returned to 2008 New York after some time spent in Israel after sleeping with his best friend's girlfriend. Now that he has returned, he wants to apologize for committing such an act, yet Ari, his friend, has moved on to bigger and better(?) things. Myles learns that his friend is now part of an anti-war group lead by a fiery ex IRA member named Murphy. Soon, Myles gets drawn into Ari's group, even going so far as to becoming employed by Murphy to take on the task of Secretary and meeting the other "members" of the group. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, for on March 6, 2008, the group sets out to attack the Army Recruitment Center in Times Square, no holds barred. Myles, located at the hideout apartment, keeps tense watch as the plan is supposedly carried out. Yet, as the day progresses, mingled with Myles' past, the reader watches the slow destruction of people carried along by lies and empty promises.
I will honestly state that I disliked Myles very much, yet I was right there with him both present and past as he stumbled through his life with no direction and purpose. Men like him, able bodied and reasonably intelligent, still seem to land on their feet, while others who work hard just make ends meet never seem to catch a break. After Myles sells a story to the New Yorker, he feels on top of the world yet he hopelessly dangles in the air, just waiting for something else to throw him along. That something else comes in the form of Murphy and soon, Myles receives $500 a week just to snoop and record words. He lives in near poverty with his roommate/more than a friend Nathalie, drinks and pops pills to merely exist from one moment of Life to the next, and is "driven" to finish a novel that exposes his little slice of New York to those who could care less. And yet, I was right there with him. Every whiskey drenched breath he took, every moment of being hunched over his Chinese food. I loved it.
All the Lonely Boys... felt like moments of the novels Fight Club and Bright Lights, Big City, and yet this novel stands on its own. The thrill of living in New York and wondering how you will make your way, the loneliness of being that one drop within a never ending ocean, understanding the darker nature of Mankind when pushed in the "right" way, not to mention the drugs, alcohol, and the feeling of reclaiming the power you lost - welcome to Myles' world.
When I finished reading this book, the first thought in my mind was to immediately read it again.
Saturday, February 10, 2018
(Memphis Botanical Gardens)
Claire watched the trio calmly set up their easels. When they first arrived in the park, Claire wanted to run towards them and tell them that she LOVED art. Instead, she imagined them looking at her strangely while trying not to laugh at her, causing her heart to crumble into a million pieces. She gripped her book tighter as she brought it up to her face and tried to resume reading. The trio, two men and a woman all dressed in ratty yet stylish paint splattered clothing, joked with each other, causing Claire to lower her book and watch them. She saw them take out their paints and cans of brushes, then later as one of the men and the woman exchanged a kiss while the other man rolled his eyes with mock frustration. Claire looked at the woman and noticed that she carried an air of confidence. She doesn't need to ask permission for anything, Claire thought. She just makes things happen. Just then, the second man glanced her way, not giving Claire enough time to glance at her book that was now completely forgotten. He smiled at her and she returned the good deed, only to groan inwardly when he jogged towards her. When he approached her, he continued to grin as he said good morning to her. Claire placed the book next to her and smiled as a reply. He introduced himself as Luke and Claire immediately imagined them going out to their favourite Chinese restaurant on Thursday evenings. She cleared her throat, told him her name, and asked if he dreamt in colour. Luke stared at her in silence for a several seconds, then took her hand as he sat down next to her. Indigo is my best friend, he replied as Claire smiled while the grey butterflies in her soul flew away.
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
(Cafe Rue de la Course - New Orleans, Louisiana)
The voices were always there but it was not until she turned 28 that she heard them for the first time. They flew within her mind like disoriented moths in search of a murderous light. When she first heard them, she wanted an explanation of each entity. She wanted to know their backgrounds, lifestyles, and tales of love. The voices, happy that they found an understandable host, gave their essence to her. They gave her new words for colours and presented sounds unheard of by the rest of mankind. Her eyes sparkled with a fevered glow while her skin tingled. The voices locked hands and formed a dancing chain as they sang a melancholy song off key. The stirrings of madness soothed her soul as the voices told her they would.
Sunday, February 4, 2018
I had the pleasure of meeting author C. Morgan Babst at Square Books for her recent book signing. She was a delightful person to speak with and her reading was truly incredible. However, I had no idea that her book, The Floating World, would haunt me as much as it did. Her first novel is truly a work within the realm of the Southern Gothic, a style I enjoy very much. Hurricane Katrina was not a storm. It was a never-ending nightmare. Many of my friends in Louisiana told me of their experiences before, during, and after that time. When I read Tom Piazza's novel City of Refuge, many of their stories plus the ones my parents told me floated to the surface in my mind. Although I never lived in NOLA, I still feel as though it affected me greatly. The Floating World gives us another viewpoint of the hurricane, one that will stay with me for a long time. Haunting, lyrical, almost seductive, this novel is a must read.
The Floating World records the events of the Boisdore' family as they prepare themselves for the hurricane, as well as during and well after. Joe, an African American male artist descended from freed slaves, his "Uptown" white wife Tess, and their two daughters Cora and Adelaide or Del, are the center of this novel. Joe and Tess prepare to evacuate the city, yet Cora wants to stay behind. Meanwhile, Del, having left NOLA for the bright lights of New York, makes a return to NOLA after the hurricane has passed. Joe and Tess are on the rocks and the final draw is when Joe "refuses" to go after Cora when they need to leave. Cora, willowy and somewhat not on this plane, stays because she feels she needs to. She needs to remain at home to protect that which she loves. However, it is that decision that will change her life forever. When the hurricane finally dissipates and NOLA begins to slowly rebuild itself, the nightmares appear. Joe's father, Vincent, slowly succumbs to Alzheimer's and memories of the past as he wanders the streets. Del, having returned to her home city, tries to handle her fractured family as well as the broken life she left in New York. Tess wants what's best for her daughters, yet it is her own passion that she fulfills. Cora falls prey to something that has been released by the hurricane and you wonder whether or not she wants to break free from it. Madness, disease, memory, disaster, passion, lies, and above it all - hope. Welcome to The Floating World.
Again, I can't say how much I enjoyed this book. Whenever I "see" myself with the characters while reading a novel, I know the book is a good one. In fact, I even underlined passages in the book with a pencil - so many lines that struck me as, like I said before, lyrical and haunting. Babst has a gift with words and it clearly shows. She makes you feel what the characters are feeling and you can't help but give in. You want to be with Cora as she walks the streets at night in a daze. You want Vincent to get better, all the while knowing that he won't yet you enjoy his memories of eating pies. You will feel rage against Del as she unleashes her fury against her parents, yet you know deep down she's right. You will feel a myriad of emotions through this work and you will be better for it.
I spoke with Babst via Twitter and told her how much I loved her work, so much so that I will be making a tea blend as inspired by her words. Look for details on the blend coming soon! We also agreed to meet each other again the next time I'm in NOLA - so many questions to ask her.
Thank you again for your words. I'm glad that Cora "made it".
Saturday, February 3, 2018
(Memphis, Tennessee - 2015)
I am afraid. I wish I could tell her not to leave, again. I choke on the words. I want her here with me. She's gone. Left her coffee cup for me to ponder over and "discuss" the mysteries of it all. That's such bullshit. She's gone because I pushed her too hard. I wanted her more than she wanted me. And now, and now. I told her that I loved her eyes. She rolled them and sighed. You always say that, she said under her breath. Only two months ago, she loved to nibble on my ear whenever we made love. And now, and now. I pick up the coffee mug, smell the faint hints of espresso and hazelnut. I gave up coffee five years ago for tea. She joked and told me that I would return to the bean. Like a prodigal son or something. Damn. She began to pull away when she told me that she thought I spent too much time reading rather than play with her hair while we watched movies. She was a reader too; imagine that. Shit. I need to go home. An apartment with faint traces of her perfume lingering around like a nightmare. I'm getting up. Walking out. Seeing the sun beaming down on me. I see people walking around, each in their personal sitcom. I make the steps to my apartment. Close the door. Lean against it. Cry my heart out. Fall to the floor. Feel like nothing. Lower my head. The phone rings. I look at it. Wrong number.
Friday, February 2, 2018
(Memphis, Tennessee - 2014; model: Jean Marie)
To all the men who never loved me,
I just wanted to say - thank you. Thank you for giving me those sorely needed lessons and reminders of Life. You did such an amazing job and I'm glad for it. To the man who thought I was immature when I got excited during a Harry Potter movie - thanks. To the man who wanted me to be his "other girlfriend" whenever he got bored with his girlfriend - arigato. To the man who felt such a close connection with me, only to dump me when you knew I wanted to marry you - merci. To the man who did cocaine in my apartment and slept with another girl in my bed while I was at work - cheers. To the man who couldn't hold a conversation with me because you really had nothing to say - danke. So many to name and thank yet I will keep it brief. I hated myself back then. I had no idea who I was and why I was on this planet. All I knew was that I needed someone in my life to validate me. I needed a man to direct me and tell me my name. No longer. Yes, I am with someone now, but this one is different. He knows himself and knows me yet has his path to take. I am merely his companion as my road is somewhat next to his. For all of the years of crying, panic attacks, seeking the "low hanging fruit" because I thought I had no other option - no more. I found my name. I found myself.
May your nothing lives continue to give you pleasure.
Yours with no affection,
A Woman Who Found Her Name